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3 of the Best Ways to Cross Train for Distance Runners

You probably won't be the fastest runner if all you do is run the same thing every day. And, if you run the same thing every day, then it's more likely you'll get injured and break down your muscles (because that's kind of what running does. Trust me). That's where cross training comes in. Not only is cross training super important to stay healthy and strong, it's also very helpful for your mind. No matter how much you love running, you'll probably become bored of it eventually and struggle with motivation. Cross training helps you switch up the workouts a bit and bring you back refreshed, mentally and physically, ready to run!

If you're worried about cross training because you're injured or simply don't want to do any high impact workouts, I got you! For each cross training activity, I look at it from the perspective of an injured runner, so you can use that to gauge if that cross training will work for your body right now.

1. Biking

Whether it's in the gym or the great outdoors, biking is so incredibly good for you! I love how relaxing it is to go for a ride outside with my music blasting, and I love the burn I get whenever I bike in the gym. So many coaches and doctors recommend biking as a great cross training workout for runners because you can still get your heart rate up and work your legs without pounding the concrete, so it's not just me who loves biking! Even if you aren't a runner, hopping on the bike and going for a ride is really great cardio.

Biking can help improve your cardiovascular endurance (your ability to run for a long time, basically) without the pounding, so biking could potentially help improve your race times! The Marathon Handbook gives examples of how this has helped them and additional biking workouts for runners, if you're interested.

From an injured runners perspective: This is one of the best ways for me to get my heart rate up without hurting my shins any more than they already do. Without the pounding on the concrete, I'm still working my lower body and my stamina while saving my legs. When I was struggling with knee pain, biking did hurt occasionally. But, please, go slower or less intense depending on your level of health.

Favorite bike workout: 15 minute warm up, 8 1 minute bursts with 1 minute rest in between, 15 minute cool down

2. Yoga

Now, I know that this is very controversial (at least on my team). To my knowledge, not many people like yoga, but I do! But I love the slow, easy way of moving my body. I like being able to stretch my tight muscles (and my body appreciates it too). I love being able to focus on my breath and be present in the moment, aware of how I'm feeling.

Whether you're at the peak of your training and your health, or if you're injured and recovering, this is super important to incorporate into your training routine. Yoga forces you to slow down and focus on your breathing, which then translates to more controlled breathing during your runs. Yoga improves your core strength, which is super important for runners! It also helps you loosen up, and that prevents injuries.

For those of us who struggle with keeping a strong stretching routine, finding a quick 20 minute yoga session on YouTube is super important to relieve some of those aches and pains through stretching and slow, flowing movements.

From an injured runners perspective: Yoga is mostly easy on the shins! You might come across a few movements that irritate your injury, but it's nothing extreme and easy to modify. Not only is it 98% painless, it helps prevent additional pain!

Favorite yoga workout: Anything by Boho Beautiful Yoga

3. Dumbbell workouts

High rep, low weight workouts are really great for runners, and one of my favorites to do. I love feeling the burn in my muscles and being able to get stronger in the process! These workouts are also really good to help rebuild the muscles that are breaking down or injured and strengthen them so that I can be stronger overall.

Not only do dumbbell workouts strengthen you, they help correct your form and reduce the risk of injury. These workouts can help your endurance and ultimately make those long runs easier because your body is conditioned. Many runners who also do strength training find that they run faster, which is what we all want, right?

From an injured runners perspective: Sometimes, if I'm working my legs or glutes, I can experience some shin/knee pain, but it's usually way better than when I'm running. For the most part, it's not a problem to modify, especially because I know it's helping rebuild the muscles.

Favorite dumbbell workouts: Caroline Girvan


Whether you're a runner or not, working out and working out with variety is super important! I challenge you to try a new cross training activity and see where it takes you. Comment below to let me know what your favorite cross training is, or what type of cross training you'd like to try!


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